Central Australia - Wildlife?

Submitted: Tuesday, Jul 12, 2016 at 20:26
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Have spent the last few weeks in NT.

We noticed an almost complete lack of wildlife lap apart from birds. Roads travelled included Isa - Tennant Creek - Alice, East Macs, West Macs, Palm Valley, Kings Canyon, Curtins Springs, Yulara and GSR to Laverton.

Did not see a roo, wallaby, emu, wombat, lizards or snakes and we camp out quite a bit, and no road kill apart from cattle and a few camels on the GSR.

Saw Camels, brumbys, donkeys and a few dingoes with the latter mostly around campsites.

We appreciate that many of our native animals are nocturnal and we don't drive at night. But we were very surprised to see nothing in the way of native animals.

Anybody have any facts to explain this ( we do wear spectacles and they were on the whole time )?

Cheers John
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Jul 12, 2016 at 20:57

Tuesday, Jul 12, 2016 at 20:57
Hi John

I would put my bets on the weather. With recent very good rainfall all through our complete desert systems, you will find that all wildlife will be dispersed over a very large area where there is ample feed will away from where we usually travel. With such good feed over a large area, many species of animals will be solitary as they is no need to compete against other wildlife in a small area.


Let's see what the experts have to say.



Cheers




Stephen

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Follow Up By: Member - J&A&KK - Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 08:45

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 08:45
Hi Stephen

I am sure what you say has a big impact. Having never visited the "red centre" I had expectations that may have been unrealistic. It should be called the " green centre" right now. Rivers flowing, everything green, wildflower and teaming with small birds. GSR had water filled holes that should be named and on the map on the NT side. A road train and semis bogged in the middle of a few of them.

We were very fortunate to see the country in this condition plus the bonus of water flowing down the Rock.

When walking in the bush I expected to see small animal tracks in the fresh earth. But nothing found. Also no big predatory birds. A couple of smaller Hawks and Butcher birds were the biggest we saw.

Regards John
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Reply By: Michael H9 - Tuesday, Jul 12, 2016 at 23:23

Tuesday, Jul 12, 2016 at 23:23
I've driven Sydney to Perth and back in 1987, 1995 and 2006 a only saw a few emus on each trip and that's all, so it's not a new phenomenon. I see plenty of wildlife driving through wooded mountain country though. Nearly hit roos, deer, echidnas, snakes, goanas, goats and wombats in the Vic High Country. Traveling up the centre of the NT I've had to stop for big cattle.
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Reply By: Ron N - Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 00:33

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 00:33
I'm no expert - but I'll offer an opinion. We, too, noticed a major reduction in wildlife in the Territory and the Kimberley, in the last 2 years.
Personally, I believe the last 2 years, of very dry "Wet" seasons in the North, are largely to blame.

Despite some late and unseasonal rains over the June-July period for the last 3 years, the overall rainfall levels during the last 2 "Wet" seasons have been well below average, and rainfall overall has come up well short of average in the total of both those years.
There have been a substantially reduced number of cyclones over the last two cyclone seasons.

The North needs the big rainfall events of the "Wet", and of cyclones, to ensure water supplies remain for extended periods, and between rainfall events, so the native animals can breed up and survive.

Despite what a lot of people think, our native wildlife lives a precarious existence and even just a large crucial waterhole going dry will affect the numbers substantially.

I've seen 'roos by the hundreds lining the road edges at night, between Kalgoorlie and Leonora, in the late 1980's - all lapping up the water in tiny roadside puddles, after a small shower during an extended dry period.
They can go for extended periods without water - but drought will wipe out their numbers rapidly, too - they just simply die of thirst, the same as we do.

Overall, I believe the numbers of native wildlife are down, and I think I'd be pretty right in saying that the impact of Man is playing a big part in this.
We are pushing further and further into the bush with more and more mines, extended exploration, increased amounts of good roads - and all these factors must be combining, to keep the wildlife numbers restrained.

I'm not sure that anyone is keeping track of the amount of roadkill - and the amount is not noticed as much as it used to be - because highway patrols regularly and rapidly remove carcasses that can cause crashes.

I do know it's been a long time since I saw a flock of 600-800 kangaroos since I sighted a flock this big on the Nullarbor during July 1969. I doubt whether I'll ever see a flock that size again.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 01:04

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 01:04
Hi..

A "flock" of Kangaroos? That would be a sight..even if only 1 :)

Spotted a mob of 260 in a single paddock (3ha) the other day...but that is the SW.

Lots of wildlife out there. ..you just have to look....though foxes, cats and humans have taken their toll.

Cheers
Greg
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 10:26

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 10:26
Explorer, when you've got a panicked 'roo on a path of escape from the terror of a vehicle approaching at speed, I reckon you can see them fly! [;-)

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Phil1234 - Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 15:03

Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 15:03
And don't forget dogs Greg
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Reply By: Genny - Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 09:45

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 09:45
We drove across North Qld, thru the Territory & Ayers Rock, to Port Augusta, and back up through Broken Hill, Bourke, Charleville etc after easter this year. Barely saw any animal life in the NT, a little roadkill in SA, more goats than you can poke a stick at in western NSW. The desert was unusually green in the NT. NSW and south-western Qld were pretty dry, but heaps of wildlife.
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Reply By: The Explorer - Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 11:37

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 11:37
Hello John

Cant speak on the eastern part of your trip but for central WA the only (native) things you are likely to see (excluding birds) whist driving along the GCR at this time of year are red kangaroos and euros, depending on the nature of the country (and maybe the odd western grey kangaroo in extreme west). There are no wallaby's or wombats in that part of WA.

Red kangaroos are generally in small mobs (say <10 at most) whist euros are generally solitary. Both are crepuscular so chances of seeing them during the day whilst wizzing along the road are lessened. The fact you didn't see any is not totally surprising though you would expect to jag a few, though having said that they are not normally very abundant in desert areas in any event.

Only other things likely are larger goannas (e.g.perentie, sand monitor, yellow spotted monitors) and maybe the odd dragon or snake but at this time of the year it is a bit cool so reptile activity would be well down compared to warmer months.

Don't worry there is plenty of stuff out there (i.e.. heaps of species of small reptiles and a number of smaller mammals (e.g. dunnarts + native rodents). Most you wont see driving along or even when camped up no matter what time of the year without walking around a bit and searching and/or using traps.

Cheers
Greg
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Reply By: Sigmund - Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 12:51

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 12:51
Going up the Stuart to Alice Springs in May we say more dead roos than ever before.

OK, if roadkill is cleaned up by road gangs it's no kind of representative sample.
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 18:09

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 18:09
Many of those areas you mentioned, John, are not very 'roo friendly". Think Roos prefer some scrub to camp in during the day, and open plains to graze at night, where they can monitor the approach of any predators. See plenty of emus in open country too. As Greg said there'd be plenty of smaller critters out there.

On our Simpson trip in June, we saw plenty of camel, dog and cat tracks along the tracks, and not many birds of any type. Saw quite a few dingoes, as well as a couple of "freeloaders" at Dalhousie Springs. Even saw a hare early one morning. On our way to Birdsville, we'd have seen at least 12 wedge tail eagles, as well as numerous hawks and plenty of crows.

However, recrossing the Simpson, along the Madigan, we saw numerous birds, though it seemed to be much drier than the lower Simpson.

Bob

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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 23:01

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2016 at 23:01
With the cane toad hitting the Kimberley/ Pilbara region you will be seeing substantially less reptiles next season
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Reply By: ExplorOz Team - Michelle - Thursday, Jul 14, 2016 at 16:03

Thursday, Jul 14, 2016 at 16:03
My opinion is that "our' concept of exploring is usually limited to roads/tracks/trails and mostly during the day so in reality we are only exploring a well-worn corridor.

We also tend to think predominantly of iconic mammals when thinking of Australian wildlife but of the estimated 200,000 "species" of animals found in Australia, 96% are actually invertebrates! The largest group of invertebrates is the insects, comprising 75% of Australia's known species of animals, so don't discount all those moths, beetles, and bugs! I will never forget a random bush camp we pulled off the side of the Great Eastern Highway between Perth & Kalgoorlie and the whole ground was literally wriggling with the largest bugs I've ever seen - I was truly amazed at the sight and wish I'd taken better photos but this was in the days pre digital cameras and I had a young baby and impending dusk/dinner/camp to contend with. These bugs looked like they were prehistoric - brightly coloured cockroaches the size of a hand!

The bulk of Australia's animals are very small and their survival depends on being well-hidden (particularly from humans). In the outback, you will do well to head out from your camp at night with a spotlight, hunting amongst the spinifex for small nocturnal marsupials. But yes if you're predominantly looking for the larger mammals then their distribution could well be changing due to the impact of man and climate changes.

Have a look at the Atlas of Living Australia - its a wonderful resource that will explain the full picture!
I have wanted to build a wildlife database on ExplorOz similar to our Wildflower section but we aren't experts. It just would be great to offer travellers a spot to post their photos and show where it was seen, and get the correct names. Would be great for reference and interest for people of all ages and backgrounds. One day ....

PS: Do you know that Charles Darwin never saw a kangaroo in Australia?
Michelle Martin
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 20:02

Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 20:02
Oh, come on, Michelle! Cockroaches the size of your hand?? [:-)

That'd be the Man-Eating Cockroaches of Outback Western Australia, I suppose? - along with the Flesh-Eating Bush Bunyip, and the Screaming Night Yowie?? [;-)

Seen some big cockroaches in my time - and we used to joke about the Man-Eating Cockroaches of Widgiemooltha - but now you're telling us, you've actually sighted them, with your own eyes?? [:-o

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: ExplorOz Team - Michelle - Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 20:26

Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 20:26
Ron I kid you not but I do admit I have child-size hands as I'm only 5 foot 2". I think I have some video footage maybe a bad photo but will take time to find it. There were many other bugs that I could not identify maybe not cockys but that type of thing.
Michelle Martin
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 20:32

Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 20:32
One or both of you may be interested in this...

A Guide to the Cockroaches of Australia

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 13:44

Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 13:44
Not wrong about insects, Michelle. (Couldn't spell inverterthingys:-))

Have seen numerous cases of mass invasions of gidgea beetles, Lavender(stink) beetles and moths. Imagine a full size ping-pong table, just a moving mass of gidgea beetles, with the crushing of just one beetle producing a somewhat foul odour.

And Long haired Plague Rats! Chew anything and everything, and leaving tracks across the countryside like some phantom motorcyclist riding willy-nilly, with no idea where he's going. Then the feral cats follow..............

Bob

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Follow Up By: vk1dx - Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 14:04

Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 14:04
Is this the one Michelle.

Wikipedia - Australias largest

One that nearly got away.

The one that didn't get away

Tnx

Phil
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Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Monday, Jul 18, 2016 at 22:02

Monday, Jul 18, 2016 at 22:02
Here you go Ron...

Maybe not the ones Michelle saw but "Cockroaches as Big as Your Hand".

This one is from North Queensland.



Cheers

Anthony
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Reply By: MUZBRY- Life member(Vic) - Thursday, Jul 14, 2016 at 19:08

Thursday, Jul 14, 2016 at 19:08
Gday
I recon its the first lookout cockatoo that squarks is the reason you never see animals. He squarks and lets all the animals know you are coming...and it goes on and on all the way through Australia. If you dont hear that first cockatoo all will be ok.
Muzbry
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Reply By: Kilcowera Station Stay - Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 06:55

Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 06:55
On our drive from Kilcowera ( SW Qld ) to Birdsville we noticed a complete lack of roos and emus once we passed through the Wild Dog Fence west of Thargomindah. We did not see one roo out there. But back here and inside the fence their numbers are nearly in plague proportions! Just visit us if you want to see a few roos! Cheers, Toni
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Reply By: Phil1234 - Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 15:05

Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 15:05
Every morning the ground was like this. And it wasn't a mouse plague. Just furry native species. By night it was alive.

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Follow Up By: Michael H9 - Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 07:33

Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 07:33
Geez I remember driving through a mouse plague back in the 80's. I crested a hill on the old Hume Hwy near Yass and could no longer see the ground, the mice were like a thick moving carpet stretching for what seemed like the full distance of my high beams. I had no chance of pulling up in time and I also didn't want to stop in the middle of it. The car was a complete mess underneath afterwards, I didn't think it was possible.
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Follow Up By: Phil1234 - Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 08:54

Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 08:54
We got "attacked" by mice the year before this trip, just south west of Poeppel corner, down the K1 track. They ate away the insulation around the Redarc isolator. Luckily no electrical issue.

Luckily nothing on the trip above. The paw prints are all different sizes. You could hear a few calling.
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Follow Up By: Teraa - Thursday, Jul 21, 2016 at 21:33

Thursday, Jul 21, 2016 at 21:33
I can see Hoping mouse, reptile,bird,small mammal nice pic
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Reply By: Ron N - Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 20:14

Friday, Jul 15, 2016 at 20:14
I drove (daylight hours only) from Yulara to Laverton along the GCR in late October 2014 and only saw ONE Kangaroo in the whole distance.

Came across plenty of camels, and one bustard - but very few lizards.

Overall, I was greatly surprised at the lack of wildlife, I expected a lot more.

Travelled Laverton-Leonora just after dark - and whilst approaching another vehicle at 120kmh with headlights dipped, I whizzed right past a huge black and white bird, that was standing still and upright, straddling the centre double white line!!!

It never moved from its standing position - and it frightened the living hell out of me, as I only just glimpsed it, about half a second before it flew right past my drivers door wing mirror! - missing it by inches!!

I still have no idea what it was!!? I only just got a glimpse of it as it flew past, and it didn't fall into the "immediate recognition" ID of anything I know of, in the Australian bush??

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Genny - Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 05:45

Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 05:45
Jabiru?

or

Jabberwocky! :)
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 09:26

Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 09:26
Genny, I've never seen a Jabiru outside the tropical areas of the North of Australia. I think Leonora/Laverton might be way too far South for one of them!

Jabawocky?! Maybe?! Wouldn't recognise one, if one did appear, though! [;-)

Best I can think of, it was a Bustard, and the colours appeared black and white in just the flash I saw of it - rather than their correct brown-and-white colouring.

They're very slow to react to any threat, and this jells with the lack of movement of the beast, as we whizzed past within a hairs-breadth of it!

Any other animal would be on the move, the instant the area was lit up and loud sounds approached - but Bustards are as slow-thinking as they come!
It's not the first time I've walked up quietly to a group of them, and got very close, as they had a long think about the potential threat!

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 13:47

Saturday, Jul 16, 2016 at 13:47
I was going to suggest a Jabiru too, Ron.

We used to get them occasionally on the Diamantina, down as far as the Tropic, but usually in the wetter years.

Bob

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Reply By: Snatchem & Shackle - Monday, Jul 18, 2016 at 12:10

Monday, Jul 18, 2016 at 12:10
Interesting observation John.
Shackle and I have just returned from a 6 week trip to Nhullunby ,which included transversing the Gibson Desert and Great Sandy Desert from Marble Bar to Alice travelling the Kiwirrkurra /Gary Junction Roads.
In those 5 days we saw perhaps 3 camels and very little else.
Perhaps the recent excellent rains out there has provided ample feed and there is no necessity for animals to wander along the road/tracks.
What we also noticed was the fantastic grasses that now cover the landscape now cattle are no longer permitted to graze in those remote areas.
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Reply By: Teraa - Thursday, Jul 21, 2016 at 21:44

Thursday, Jul 21, 2016 at 21:44
Central AustralIs is the Eppie centre of Mammal extinction in Australia we are up to 30 now extinct worst in the world and no there's no coming back they are only species of animals that belonged only in Australia. To save them feral free areas and those few who are fighting ferals,weeds and hot fires to save the rest. I heard someone on the radio the other day say that we should get rid of Roos because goats were paying more that's the mentality it's surprising we haven't had more go missing. We have terrible habits and have a love for exotic pets instead of a real pride for our natives
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